SALEM — The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will host six public open houses in January to solicit public comment on a draft management plan for six coastal salmon and trout species.
The draft Coastal Multi-Species Conservation and Management Plan describes the conservation status of these species and outlines a suite of actions related to harvest and hatchery programs, predators, and habitat to sustain these species and improve overall fishing. The goal is to better balance risks to wild fish populations by being conservative in some areas while also increasing fishing and harvest opportunities in others.
The species and area for the plan include spring and fall Chinook, chum salmon, winter and summer steelhead, and coastal cutthroat trout along much of the Oregon coast (from Cape Blanco to Seaside).
The draft plan was developed with input, compromise and consensus from four stakeholder teams distributed along the coast whose members represented recreational and commercial fishing interests, local watershed councils, conservation groups, resource producers, local government and Native American tribes.
In addition, the department conducted an opinion survey of anglers and non-anglers about their general views regarding fishing in Oregon and wild fish conservation, and received informal feedback from other individuals and groups, such as independent scientists and volunteer groups from the Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program.
According to Tom Stahl, ODFW’s Conservation and Recovery Program Manager, all of this input was used to help develop the draft plan and the Department is now seeking additional input from the public before finalizing recommendations to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission later this spring.
The dates, locations and times for the public open houses are:
• Jan. 16 — Salem - ODFW Headquarters, 4034 Fairview Industrial Drive SE, Salem, 6-9 p.m.
• Jan. 21 — Tillamook – Tillamook County Library Meeting Room, 1716 3rd St., Tillamook, 6-9 p.m.
• Jan. 23 — Newport – Best Western Plus Agate Beach Inn, 3019 N. Coast Highway., Newport, 6-9 p.m.
• Jan. 27 — Roseburg – Douglas County Library Meeting Room, 1409 NE Diamond Lake Blvd., Roseburg, 6-9 p.m.
• Jan. 28 — North Bend/Coos Bay – North Bend Community Center, 2222 Broadway St., North Bend, 6-9 p.m.
• Jan. 29 — Reedsport – Reedsport Community Center, 451 Winchester Ave., Reedsport, 6-9 p.m.
“The Coastal Multi-Species Plan is the agency’s first attempt to create a management plan for multiple species that are not listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act and for which the state of Oregon has a fair amount of management flexibility due to the relative good health of the populations,” Stahl said.
The plan takes a portfolio approach where, for example, a hatchery program change on one stream to protect wild fish could be balanced by an expanded hatchery program on a nearby stream.
“We realize it’s unrealistic to expect that every river will be everything to everybody,” Stahl said. “So instead we are trying to create a portfolio of varied management actions throughout the coastal planning area, balancing reduced conservation risk to wild fish with increased fishing opportunity in different locations.”
Some key elements of the draft plan include:
• Increases fishing opportunities – for example, total hatchery releases will increase 5 percent.
• Provides more protection to wild fish by clearly identifying areas that will not have hatchery programs.
• Proposes harvest opportunities for wild steelhead in three new areas among the 19 basins with steelhead.
• Proposes two new spring chinook hatchery programs in Yaquina and Coos bays.
• Proposes managing wild coho, chinook, and spring chinook harvest on a sliding scale that increases or decreases the number of fish that can be retained based on anticipated returns.
• Calls for anglers and guides to provide more data for use in management through the mandatory return of harvest tags and a pilot program asking guides to keep logbooks of harvest.
• Identifies actions to address the threat that marine mammal, bird and non-native fish predators pose to wild and hatchery salmon and trout, as well as the overall fishing experience.
• Provides guidance on how to prioritize habitat restoration and protection efforts, but relies on local groups to continue working under the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds to identify the necessary projects and best areas to work in their local basins.
Members of the public will find the draft plan on the ODFW website and can comment on the plan at a public open house, or by sending written comments to ODFW.CoastalPlan@state.or.us by February 10, 2014.
There will be additional opportunity for public comment when the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission considers the plan at two future meetings: March 7 in Tigard and April 25 in North Bend.